When the San Francisco 49ers decide this offseason, it’s not going to be in a box. They’re not going to look at their secondary and think, “we should let Jaquiski Tartt walk.” The conversation would look more like, “is Tarvarius Moore giving us enough at safety where he could let Tartt walk? Could a rookie give us more? Are there any free agents at the position that is a clear upgrade from what’s currently on the roster?”
Today, we’ll come up with the first installment of the 49ers offseason plan. Perfect scenarios don’t exist. Ideal ones do. San Francisco’s 2019 roster was as close to perfect as it got. The team had some breaks go their way before a disappointing finish. The success of that season will be close to impossible to replicate.
Here’s a realistic option for what the 49ers' offseason could look like.
- Trent Williams
- Kyle Juszczyk
- Kendrick Bourne
- Solomon Thomas
- Jordan Willis
- Dontae Johnson
In this scenario, the 49ers lose Tartt, K’Waun Williams, Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Kerry Hyder, D.J. Jones, and a handful of other notable names. San Francisco is going to sign more than six unrestricted free agents. I’m not going to get into the players who would hypothetically sign for the veteran minimum.
Williams, Juszczyk, and Bourne are all part of the team’s core players who contribute. Continuity could play a big part in these decisions, which is why bringing back these three makes sense. Each player is a part of the 49ers' identity in their own way.
Who signs from outside of the building
- WR John Ross
- C/G Austin Blythe
- Edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan
- DT Dalvin Tomlinson
- CB Brian Poole
- CB William Jackson
- S Keanu Neal
The big named free agent the 49ers signed played for the team in 2020: Trent Williams. Retaining Williams is priority No. 1 this offseason, as everyone who covers and watches the Niners have already said.
Here’s my thought process for the names above. Last season, San Francisco signed Travis Benjamin to a one-year deal before he opted out. Ross only appeared in three games this past season. He’d serve as the annual speed threat the Niners bring in.
As much as I’d love for the 49ers to sign All-Pro center Corey Linsley, he’s going to break the bank. Blythe is an underrated player who has starting experience at both right guard and center. He’s the technician the Niners so desperately needed inside during the past couple of seasons while Weston Richburg has been injured. Plus, you steal a starter from the Rams.
After releasing Dee Ford, San Francisco goes the value route and brings in the veteran Kerrigan to give the team what Ronald Blair could—serviceable snaps as a backup edge rusher.
Tomlinson takes Jones’s spot at nose tackle, while Poole comes over from the Jets, who inevitably sign K’Waun. Poole isn’t Williams, but he’s not far off as a slot cornerback.
You thought we’d go an offseason without Shanahan bringing in a former Falcon? You thought wrong. Neal is brought in to compete with Moore to start opposite of Jimmie Ward at a value price.
Jackson is the marquee name, however. Losing Verrett stings, but signing Jackson makes up for Verrett’s loss. The former 2016 first-round pick finished 2020, allowing 46% of his 67 targets to be completed while breaking up nine passes and only allowing two touchdowns, per Sports Info Solutions. Equally as impressive, Jackson only missed three tackles all season.
Over the Cap and Spotrac, both have Jackson’s valuation just north of $6 million per season. You’re not getting 2020 Verrett, but you’re also not paying $10-$12 million.
Who gets drafted?
In this scenario, the 49ers didn’t make any offseason trades. No Matthew Stafford or Deshaun Watson. They elect to keep Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster and build through the draft.
That doesn’t mean the team goes this offseason without adding a quarterback, though. Kyle gets his guy in the first round as San Francisco selects Trey Lance out of North Dakota State.
This works on a few different levels. Shanahan doesn’t have to hand the keys to his offense to a rookie who has thrown 318 passes at the FCS level. Jimmy G gets another season to prove that he can stay healthy, while Lance gains valuable experience as he gets to practice every day against the speed and talent that’s the 49ers' defense.
I could see Shanahan having a red zone or short-yardage package that involves Lance where he has a run/pass threat. If it gets to a worst-case scenario where Garoppolo is injured, then Lance comes in, and then he has to learn on the fly. That situation still beats what the 49ers trotted out under center this past season.
We added two cornerbacks in free agency, but that shouldn’t stop the team from investing in the secondary. With the second-round pick, I’m adding another cornerback. If a guy like South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn is on the board, I’m skipping to the podium with a smile from ear to ear. It’ll be the third year in a row the 49ers added a Gamecock with their first two picks and right there, I’d feel great about “my” draft.
If there isn’t a cornerback that I like that’s available, I’d think long and hard about the best available edge rusher. At some point in the draft, investing in a pass rusher and possibly a future left tackle would be where else I look.
This is the first scenario, and one that I feel would be the most likely with all things considered. Let me know how you feel about it and what you would have changed. Remember, San Francisco is working on a tight budget, and you also have to leave some “emergency” funds available, plus enough room to sign your draft picks.
Once we’ve gone through each offseason plan, we’ll tie them all together and let you vote to see which one you’d like to see happen.